Why do dogs get the zoomies? As a trainer, I am often asked this question, and the answer is always the same: it depends. When it comes to evaluating behavior, it's important to look at what happens before and after the behavior so we can pinpoint what triggered the zoomies in the first place and what benefit the dog obtains from engaging in them.
In previous articles, we looked at why dogs act crazy after a bath, and why dogs run after pooping, so if your dog is getting the after-bath zoomies or is running after pooping you may want to read those articles for specific pointers. If your dog gets the zoomies under different circumstances, and he runs around like a person who had too much coffee (no dog should drink coffee, by the way) then read on for some potential causes.
What are Dog Zoomies?
Did you ever see your puppy or dog get a wild look in his eyes and then in a split second he's off running back and forth like a missile? If so, you may have witnessed a case of dog zoomies.
Technically known as Frenetic Random Activity Periods, dog zoomies are simply periods of high activity that are fueled by an excess of energy.
The energy may be stemming from a lack of exercise, simple joie de vivre (joy of life) or relief from a stressful or frustrating situation. By looking at what triggers your dog's zoomies in the first place, you can have a better understanding of what might be going on.
Good Old Relief
Next time your dog gets the zoomies, try to see what happened right before. As with the case of dogs who hate baths and get the zoomies right after it, there are chances dogs celebrate getting done with an event they didn't look forward to.
Often, the event entailed staying still for a while and enduring something not too pleasant. For example, some dogs may act crazy after grooming if they dread having their nails clipped or their hair brushed.
Some dogs may act crazy after having their teeth brushed or after seeing the vet. In these cases, it's as if dogs were saying "ahhh, it feels so good to be done with it!" After all, even us humans may feel something similar after enduring something unpleasant.
Ever felt like kissing the ground after being on a turbulent flight? Ever felt good getting up from the dentist's chair after a painful visit? Ever felt like eating out after a tough interview? If so, you may get an idea of the exhilarating sensation of going back to normal life.
Celebrating Meal Time
Does your dog get the zoomies after eating his meal? Then, your dog is likely celebrating the sensation of being full. After your dog's stomach has been empty for a while, it feels great to get a full tummy.
For many dogs meal time is one of the biggest perks of the day, especially if not much is going on in their lives. A lot of anticipation is built as you walk in the kitchen, grab the food bowl and open the bag. Most likely, your dog knows when meal time is coming, so he'll likely be waiting for some time and watching your every move. So after eating, it's worth celebrating satiety and the associated energy.
Many households with dogs can attest that many dogs get the zoomies and romp around in wild play after eating.
After Poop Zoomies
Some dogs act crazy after pooping, why is that? Until dogs can talk and tell us what is really going on, we can only make assumptions. There are chances that if a dog has been holding it for some time he may be celebrating the sensation of feeling "lighter" and the associated relief felt after having a bowel movement.
Some dogs may have felt in the past the unpleasant sensation associated with some residual poop remaining attached to their rear end. In such a case, the dog may have learned that by running off wildly, there are chances that that "dingle berry" will eventually fall off and the dog feels much better.
The "Puppy Zoomies"
Just like human toddlers, puppies may also get their little "tantrums" when they feel tired or frustrated. You may see your puppy getting the zoomies and acting up when he's tired after a walk or cranky because he can't make up his mind on what to do next. In some cases, puppies may get a bout of zoomies when they're overstimulated.
Puppies also may get their zoomies when they have a lot of energy in the morning and in the evening, often after eating their meals. After these brief spurts of energy, they'll often plop down on their blankets and just fall asleep. The puppy zoomies are often fun to watch and most puppy owners enjoy to sit back and watch the show. And this is a good thing! As puppies grow, these episodes start to gradually diminish, but in some dogs they may persist into adulthood and even past it.
How to Handle Dog Zoomies
If your dog gets the zoomies, you may be concerned he may get hurt or he may knock over your collectibles, your furniture and even grandma and the kids. With deep-chested dogs you may worry about bloat and prefer that your dog would have some time to digest before romping around wildly. What can you do?
The good news is that if you can find a pattern as to when the Frenetic Random Activity Periods are more likely to happen, you can have better control. If your dog has a case of zoomies after he eats or after you come home from work, you can prevent them from happening by letting your dog engage him in a quieter game of fetch, tug or a fun training session.
Even mental activity can be a good way to keep the dog busy. Simply give your dog an interactive toy such as a stuffed Kong or play a game of "toss the kibble" using a part of your dog's meal. If you don't mind the zoomies but are only worried about your dog wrecking havoc in the house, just let him out in the yard to romp around and wait it out.
Looking for an "off button" when your dog is in full zooming mode? You are not alone. Many dog owners have a hard time getting their dog's attention when they're engaging in wild play. If you're looking for the "off" button, you may find it helpful teaching your dog a fun game invented by Ian Dunbar that's called "Jazz Up and Settle Down."
As seen, the zoomies in dogs may occur for different reasons. For sure, if they're occurring often, the dog may find some advantage in engaging in them. Whether your dog acts crazy after a bath to expedite the drying process or to release some stress from the unpleasant bathing event, it's good putting ourselves in our dogs shoes every now and then and asking ourselves what may be going on. By better understanding our dogs, we can help them out if there's something bothering them by making certain activities more pleasant. And if the zoomies stem from simply "joie de vivre" we can just sit back, relax and enjoy the show.